Who Will Top The Field at Barber? [IndyCar Live Thread]

Honda Grand Prix of Alabama Live Thread

4/1/12 in IndyCar   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Welcome to Round 2 of the IZOD IndyCar Series season, at the GORGEOUS FACILITY that is Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Any time IndyCar comes here, the gorgeousness of the place is always mentioned frequently (as well as the strange sculptures such as the one shown on the right), to the point that smartass bloggers and fans make fun of it. Of course, the reason Barber being a GORGEOUS FACILITY is because the race itself tends to be lacking in excitement. As you can see in the track map Debi posted in her preview, there is really only one passing spot, the hairpin in turn 5. Passing opportunities have been a big discussion point since St. Pete, which was deemed as "boring" by some, but at the same time, the vast majority of the passing was missed by ABC. Barber has less passing chances than St. Pete, the track is too narrow, and the overall reality is that road and street racing is an acquired taste. Whether that bites IndyCar in its quest for more eyeballs is one of the top questions in the future.

There are two things going for the race today and the possibility of action. One is that it appears the red optional tires, which have better grip than the blacks, are falling off quicker than usual. The red and blacks were supposed to create passing by having a tire that wears off faster. This mostly hasn't materialized though, as Firestone understandability doesn't want tires going off quickly. However, when the reds do wear off quickly, like at Sonoma, it makes a big difference. We also have the two presumptive championship favorites starting farther back than expected. Will Power got caught in a red flag in Round 2 of qualifying, negating a top lap and relegated him to 9th. Dario Franchitti, meanwhile, just plain didn't have the speed to get out of Round 1, and thus will start 18th. After disappointing finishes at St. Pete, this two need to move up through the field, or they might not be the presumptive title favorites anymore.

Chevy appeared to be ahead of Honda last week, especially in cornering speed. This was best shown with Helio's pass on the outside of Dixon for the virtual lead. That advantage has continued so far in Barber. Helio is on pole, with James Hinchcliffe on the outside. Only 4 of the top 12 spots are Hondas, with Scott Dixon and Mike Conway leading the way on the second row. Lotus, meanwhile, remains well behind, and so far are struggling just to keep from having issues. Alex Tagiliani and Oriol Servia have both changed engines, and Sebastien Bourdais' engine appeared to have quit during morning warm-ups.

Despite that advantage though, I'm going to go with my gut and pick Scott Dixon to win. Like Helio, Dixon seems rejuvenated with the new car, and if he can avoid his recent early season bad luck, he's definitely a championship factor. My dark horse is Simon Pagenaud, who was quickest in morning warm-ups and has been very impressive so far this year. That one car team at Sam Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports is looking like it'll be a thorn in the side of the big teams.

Coverage today is on NBC Sports Network and begins at 1:30 with the debut of INDYCAR 36, which is a similar program to NHL 36. Tony Kanaan will be featured in the debut episode. Pre-race than starts at 2:00 eastern, with green flag at approximately 2:45. For reference, Timing and Scoring can be found here. Also, check out More Front Wing's Event Summary for everything you need to know about the race weekend. It's quickly become a must reference for IndyCar fans throughout the weekend. Q it up here throughout the day.
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4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Unofficial Results:

1. Will Power
2. Scott Dixon
3. Helio Castroneves
4. Graham Rahal
5. Simon Pagenaud
6. James Hinchcliffe
7. Mike Conway
8. Rubens Barrichello
9. Sebastien Bourdais (top Lotus, Drive of the Day as far as I'm concerned)
10. Dario Franchitti (made a last lap pass on Marco to get 10th)
11. Marco Andretti
12. Ryan Hunter-Reay
13. Oriol Servia (from last, another great drive from a Lotus driver)
14. Ryan Briscoe
15. JR Hildebrand
16. James Jakes
17. Josef Newgarden
18. EJ Viso -1 lap
19. Justin Wilson -1 lap (dealt with a very loose race car all day)
20. Simona de Silvestro -1 lap
21. Tony Kanaan -1 lap (broken right shock ruined his day)
22. Ed Carpenter -2 laps
23. Katherine Legge -5 laps
24. Takuma Sato DNF (Mechanical)
25. Charlie Kimball DNF (Mechanical)
26. Alex Tagliani DNF (Mechanical)

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Will Power is your winner of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama! What a fun race. Totally surpassed every my most optimistic expectations.

Full results to come in a few minutes.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Power-Dixon-Hinchcliffe-Helio-Rahal top 5. Marco 8th, Bourdais 9th, RHR 10th, Dario 13th.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

A problem with Dixon on the pit stop allowed Power to cycle through as the leader. We're under caution because Legge went off in the gravel. Huge restart coming up.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Sebastien Bourdais is in 9th. In a Lotus. That man can drive anything.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

TK's day is essentially done, as he's in the pits to repair a shock problem. He'll get going soon, but he's lost a lot of time. A good finish is almost impossible.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Dixon still leads after the pit cycle, but one Will Power is now 2nd by just less than a second. Hinch, Helio, and Rahal round out the top 5. Marco is 9th and is a one man highlight reel. Bourdais is having a great run in 10th. Dario still back in 12th.

Sato's car just quit.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

A lot of teams having issues changing the rear tires due to the new bodywork. Dixon was the latest. He had a big lead, and that problem might cause him to lose when the cycle ends.

4/1/12   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

I'm hating that the IndyCar race and the NASCAR race are on at the same time........

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Power by Kanaan for 5th. Will started on blacks while everyone else was on reds. Now, though, Will is on reds and the rest of the front guys are on blacks, and Will is taking advantage. Dude is flying.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

First pit stops complete and Dixon has taken the lead. Helio is 2nd, Hinch 3rd, Graham and TK round out the top 5. Power is 6th. Pagenaud stalled and thus dropped to 8th. Dario is still mired in 16th. During the sequence, there was action all over the track. Whatever the reason, this is easily the best race ever at Barber.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Score one for the new car. Things have been pretty racy so far.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Pagenaud and Power both went around Viso in turn 5. TK and Graham got by JR for 5th and 6th at the start. Caution is out as Tags is already blown up and stopped on track. Lotus didn't even make it half a lap.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Bart Starr gives the most polite command ever, and we're about ready to go.

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

I hope NBC Sports Network learned something just now. Don't start the grid walk in the middle of the invocation. As Robin Miller put it, "What the hell? They're all praying."

Also, put Townsend Bell on the walk too. Then poor Robin won't have to run so much.

4/1/12   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

Amen to ABC failing on showing the passing in the race.  Seriously, this is when it is critical to have twitter!!

4/1/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

I'm watching INDYCAR 36, and according to the show, TK is engaged! Congratulations to him and fiancee Lauren!

Also, according to a Curt Cavin tweet: "Dallara officials said drivers learned at St. Pete that DW12 can take side contact, so look "for more aggressiveness" today."

I didn't mention this in the write-up, but I suspected this will be a much less clean race than last week.